Seven Yellow Jackets on Forbes 30 Under 30 List

Seven Yellow Jackets appear on the magazine’s 2016 list of the brightest young minds in America. Click the image below to learn more!

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“It’s Not You… it’s me.” Denied Admission– A Path to Recovery

“This is not working out.” My high school girlfriend and I were working on math homework at her house. We were trying to solve equations I hadn’t seen before (I’m sure most of you reading this would scoff at their simplicity, but it was difficult at the time). I said, “I know. But we will figure it out.” She paused, then put her pencil down and said kindly, but definitively, “No.” Then “this,” pointing her finger back and forth between my chest and hers. “Us. It’s not working out.” I remember so clearly how those words sounded at the time.

I know this has become a predictable Hollywood storytelling technique, but it was one of only three times in my life when the noise around me seemed to fade into the background. I watched her continue to tilt her head, stroke her hair and occasionally look down, somewhat painfully, as she explained why “we” needed to break up.

I had known this girl since Kindergarten, but it had only been in the last year that I realized she was truly beautiful. And funny, and smart, and kind. We liked the same music, she watched sports (although cheered for the wrong team…Bulldogs), and we laughed together a lot. Basically, I thought she was perfect. And it was sinking in that she was taking that perfection and moving on.

I really can’t tell you what I said to her… maybe I actually said nothing. All I remember was getting my books, getting my bag, and getting the (deleted) out of there. I drove the four miles home and on the way I rolled down the window, turned up the music, and yelled out the window a mixture of questions, anger, and tears. I was a mess.

I walked into my house and my mom was doing dishes in the kitchen. She could see I was upset and asked me what was wrong. I remember sitting next to her on the couch and listening to her tell me everything was okay… there would be other girls… and maybe I was better off anyway.  In fact, now I wonder if she did not have a hand in writing The Avett Brothers song I Would Be Sad: “One day son, this girl will think of what she’s done and hurting you will be the first of many more regrets to come.”  It was one of those moments that I’m sure she could see my thought bubble of “Yeah, easy for you to say.” At the time, I didn’t understand that at one point in her life, she was a teenager too. I thought she’d always been married to my dad and that her life started when I was born. So how could she know what I was going through?

Road to Recovery

At this time of year, a good number of colleges have already released admission decisions. I’ve heard a number of these conversations in our community, and have started to read the advice and speculation online or on social media as well. If you have been denied from a school that seemed perfect and you had your heart set on, I’ve got three tips for you:

  1. You’re Not Okay. Go ahead and scream, cry, talk to your parents… beat your pillow, or cook something (you can even try all of those at once if you’re really upset). Do whatever it takes for you to begin to move on and clear you head. But don’t drive while you’re healing… be stationary (or on a treadmill) and then let it rip.
  2. You will be Okay. Here’s what I see every year. Some students whose first choice was not Georgia Tech end up coming here and loving it. Then again, every now and then I’ll run into a sibling or parent or counselor of a student we denied admission to who tells me that student was devestated about not getting in here, but is now at X College and doing great. One of the schools you’ve applied to, or are waiting to hear back from is IT. Take a moment to believe that—and be encouraged and get excited about it.
  3. Refocus. When I had to refocus, I dove into school and soccer. Immediately after that break up, I wasn’t a lot of fun to be around for a few weeks. But I threw myself into academics and practicing with incredible focus, resolve, and motivation to get better and succeed. I remember long nights of studying and going early and staying late for practice. What is that focus for you? Maybe it’s another college. Or perhaps it’s proving the school that denied you wrong by thriving through your senior year and into college elsewhere.

I understand that it seems unlikely you could completely distill moving on after being denied admission into three easy steps. Or maybe it’s not. After all The Avett Brothers song continues, “‘If she doesn’t call, then it’s her fault and it’s her loss.’ I say, It’s not that simple see, but then again it just may be.”

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The “D” Word

I don’t swear a lot. Occasionally, but not that often. Partly that’s because I’m not apt to losing my temper, and I also remember being told that cursing lacks creativity. That always stuck with me, and I think it’s had a lasting impact.

THE ‘S’ WORD

Recently, my seven year old son came home extremely upset because a neighbor kid had used “THE ‘S’ WORD!” Despite being the Holidays I was pretty sure we weren’t talking about Santa, so I immediately started considering how I’d respond. I asked him to tell me more and as he began I started thinking about my advice. Something surrounding how “THE ‘S’ WORD” is not appropriate and you can get in trouble for using it and…. then I heard something that made me pause. “Yea. He was like, ‘that is just plain Ssssssss’… and then you know… and then, ‘Pid.'” Ok. Totally different “S word.” Totally different lecture. Totally different approach. Now we are moving into how that word is insulting, and lazy, and all the other synonyms that are more interesting.

THE ‘D’ WORD

But it got me thinking about college admission. Logically. At this time of year a lot of schools are releasing their EA and ED decisions. I’m already seeing posts on social media and hearing more from friends in our neighborhood talk about their son or daughter. One of the biggest questions surrounds…. “THE D WORD!” Nope… not deny. I suppose that’s kind of like the actual “S WORD.” Pretty clear. If you are denied, it’s frustrating, it’s upsetting, it’s a tough blow. But at least you have a decision and you can move on. I’ll write more about this in a future post, but it’s a lot like breaking up. You know where you stand… and who you won’t be standing next to. Unfortunately, defer and deny both start with the same letter. But their implications are extremely divergent.

If you are deferred admission from a school, it’s important for you to remember three things:

1. You are not denied. If a school did not think you were competitive or a good fit, they would have denied you. This sounds harsh but it’s true. There is a reason you got a different “D Word,” so pay attention because the message is as different as the two “S Words” above.

2. Finish the drill. Getting deferred is not fun. It means being in limbo a while longer. Now you are going to need to send in fall grades, you may need to write an additional essay or tell more about your personal activities. But you are not denied. The school that deferred you wants to see more. They need to understand perhaps how you’ve done in a challenging senior schedule, or if your upward grade trend will continue, or if you can juggle more responsibility outside the classroom with your course load within. And they likely also want to see how you stack up with the entire applicant pool. So defer is a “hold on” or a “maybe” or even a “tell me more.” So do that. If you liked a school enough to apply, you should finish the drill. After all, it’s called an admission process. Sometimes that means more than just one round. See it through by submitting what they request and put your absolute best foot forward. OR cancel your application and be done. But don’t go halfway and stop giving your best effort.

3. Check your ego.  The truth is that you should do this when you are admitted, denied, or deferred. After all, an admission decision is not a value or character decision. Don’t blur the lines. If you are deferred from a college you really want to attend, you need to give them every confidence that you should be admitted in the next round, or even from the wait list. If a school asks for a mid- spring report, or they call your counselor, or they ask you to come in for an interview, you have solid grades and interesting new information to share. Your job as a senior is to finish well.

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How To Pay For College

how to pay for college

Recently, a good friend of mine told me that after his wife delivered their baby he went down to the hospital cafeteria and the “panic” of paying for college was all he could think about while eating his soggy salad. While I challenged his priorities and encouraged him to definitely practice his swaddling technique, he was likely just responding to the frenzy of conversations among older peers in his neighborhood, workplace, and community who are currently in the throes of this conundrum.

With the price of higher education rising much faster than inflation, many students and families find themselves struggling to pay for college, or looking for ways to reduce or offset the costs. To that end, we’ve developed a series entitled “How To Pay For College” designed to help, with expert advice and creative ways for meeting this challenge.

Check out our first installments with author, columnist, and visiting scholar Jeff Selingo and Rich DeMillo, director of Georgia Tech’s Center for 21st Century Universities (C21U).

And for parents much closer to writing checks and packing bags for college, here are five tips.  

Four Key Lessons of a Lifetime

Jerry Hitt (right) pictured with Senior Assistant Director of Admission Katie Faussemagne in 2010. Photo courtesy: GT Alumni Magazine

Jerry Hitt (right) pictured with Senior Assistant Director of Admission Katie Faussemagne in 2010.
Photo courtesy: GT Alumni Magazine

Even though he was several decades older than me, Jerry Hitt was my friend. Over the years, we developed a special bond. Jerry started working in undergraduate admission at Georgia Tech in the 1960s and continued to work full-time at the Institute until the 1990s. When I met him, he was still reading applications seasonally in a Director of Admissions Emeritus role.

Jerry died just before Thanksgiving, so the past week has been bittersweet. His health had declined over the last few years and his memory faded. He had started to tell the same few stories but still with great passion and detail.  What never diminished was his zeal for life and his unrivaled love for Georgia Tech.

I learned many lessons from Jerry, but these four really stick out to me.

1) Keep it simple

We quickly hit it off. Jerry loved to talk about simpler times. No cell phones, no email, no online admission decisions. He would spin yarns about faculty versus  staff softball games, tell stories about presidents gone by, or recount how Georgia Tech came to use a holistic admission process. Whether in the hallway, on the golf course at Bobby Jones (where he served as a starter) or over a meal, he always helped me to slow down and appreciate how we got to where we are as an institution.

2) Seek Perspective & Enjoy Life

He always encouraged me as director to build trust and relationships on campus, and to walk around rather than relying too much on phone calls or email (pretty sure he did not ever learn to text…). He always pointed me back to the things that matter the most: spending time with family, really listening to students, faculty and staff needs and dreams, and generally enjoying life.

3) Serve others

I’ve traveled all over the country for Tech, and never go more than a few months without an alum mentioning Jerry. They talk about how he gave them a chance by admitting them and in doing so changed their life. Or I will run into someone that worked with Jerry and they ask about him with great fondness and respect.  He was just one of those people– he listened well, he liked to laugh, and he treated people sincerely.

4) Express Appreciation

If you’re applying to college, there is no question that there are a few people who have given you that vision and provided you with opportunities and encouragement. It is easy to get caught up in completing essays, making sure all of your recommendation letters have been submitted, and taking exams.  Jerry would simply urge you to pause in an otherwise frenzied time to say thanks to those who have put you in the position to be able to apply to and ultimately attend college. Maybe that person is a parent or a teacher or coach, or perhaps a counselor or a grandparent. Who are your Jerry Hitts? Who keeps you grounded and adds value in your life? Be sure you take a moment to hug them, tell them you love them, and let them know you recognize the gift of their impact on you.